Hotham SOTA Summit 2019
The fourth Hotham SOTA Summit again organised by Brian VK3BCM and hosted at Huette Lodge, Mt Hotham. This is a great site with summits aplenty. The weekend starts on Friday with the drive up. We are talking nearly 6hrs from home so need to break it up with a couple of activations. Decided to stay away from Mt Buffalo this year so picked two sites just off the main roads.
01/Feb/2019 VK3/VU-002 (Mt Wombat) in VKFF-2403
Just off the Hume highway through Euroa. Its a clean drive up as has a CFA lookout and several comms towers on site. Drove up and parked the car in the clear so the bloke in the tower can see no issues. Went past the aviation site and ran up the end-fed down the edge. This end-fed is a none resonate 27.2m long light weight with a 9:1 unbalanced to unbalanced (unun) based on Andrews work. The shorter antenna is intended to be long enough to tune 80M whilst also compact enough to fit tight sites. I have a 40m long one with 64:1 matching unit based on Davids work, that works a treat but needs a lot of room. The shorter unit was ideal on this site. Whilst there is open area you have to setup heading down a slop so the compact was run up with the 7m squid pole and with the wire running away from the comms sites heading down the edge. This was not to avoid noise but to stay in the clear and so not to be perceived as a threat to the sites. Quick activation with S2S (VK2IO on VK3/VG-004 and VK3BCM on VK3/VE-005) a chat with the CFA bloke in the tower to find out what the fires were up to. Back down and onto the highway to continue.
Had the car on 40m and picked up CW contacts with VK3HN and VK3PF on the way up.
I had been on this site before so know its a rabbit warren. Plantation roads are dynamic at the best of times. I called Warren VK3BYD as he had been recently and had a track to follow. I could hear activations from the car and able to contact VK1MIC & VK3PF from the HT. There were CW spots coming through so ran the endfed up and picked up VK1DA and VK2IO S2S CW, the best SOTA contact. Once worked the other activators out had a contact with VK3EQ and headed back down as wanted to keep moving to be at Hotham in light.
Arrived at the lodge to meet up with regulars (Peter VK3PF,Alan VK3FABT, Brian VK3BCM, Ron and Ruth VK3AFW, Compton VK2HRX, David VK3IL, Glenn VK3YY, Leigh VK3SG, Phil and Kathy VK3BHR and Ken VK3KIM) and new attendees being Andrew VK1DA, Gerard VK2IO, Wade VK1MIC, Adele ZS5APT and Sid ZS5AYC. It was great to catch with old and new friends. Rik VK3EQ was also in the area. Some off these people I have had regular contacts with going back 6 years and finally meet in the flesh. The conversation quickly turns two planning as many had activated on the way up and Saturday is always a early start to maximise opportunities whilst in the area. Summit to Summits are the goal so timings have to be clear. There were maps a plenty and some smooth lemon based drink.
Early to bed as early start.
Saturday went out with David VK3IL, Glenn VK3YY and Phil VK3BHR in Davids 4WD. We headed off to Omeo down Alpine Road towards Mt Nugong.
01/Feb/2019 VK3/VG-018 (Mt Nugong)
Mt Nugong is a drive-up summit basically following Nunniong Road off Bindi Rd. As there is a communications tower on site the road is good quality.
This was an activation of real hams as Phil setup his hand crafted 40M SSB radio for HF and Glenn deploying his home made 2m antenna for 2m contacts.
Glenn VK3YY with Phil VK3BHR using 2m yagi.
I secured S2S with other activators in the area including VK3EQ on HF and with VK3KIM , VK3PF and VK2HRX on 2M.
Could see the Timbarra fire in the distance. Didn’t affect Mt Nugong nor Bindi or any of our planned activities but we were watching. (35km SSW of Corryong North of Timbarra and Buchan and west of the Gelantipy Road between Gelantipy and Murrindal Fire Not yet under control Sat 9th Feb)
Keeping on time is essential to maintain alignment with the other parties so we packed up and headed to Mt Bindi. This involved heading back and along Nunniong Road, then north to Sawpit Road. Then following Granite Flat Link Track to Escarpment Track, then north to reach to Mount Bindi Track.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-017 (Mt Bindi)
I ran up the KX and 27.2m end fed down the road on Mt Bindi to secure CW contacts including a S2S with VK3PF and with regulars including VK3BYD, VK7CW and VK5CZ. Another S2S with VK3EQ was secured on 2m. Once qualified again we kept moving to try and keep aligned with the other groups.
Phil VK3BHR on Mt Bindi
We headed back to Nunniong Plains Track via Sawpit Road and Lake Hill. Lake Hill trk was the roughest we experienced and would be a challenge in the wet but not a issue in current conditions. Once on Nunniong Road took the advice from last night and headed up the longer way but quicker route to eventually head down Jam Tin Flat. Worked out we missed the turn to the summit once ran out of hills so turned back and down Blue Shirt to an open wide AZ.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-011 (Mt Nunniong)
David VK3IL, Phil VK3BHR and Myself qualifying VK3/VG—011 on 2M. Photo Glenn VK3YY
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-012 (Brumby Hill)
Retrace back to Jam Tin Flat Track, then north along Nunniong Road to Limestone Road which passed through the AZ of Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012. Brumby HIll is a clear site. The road is in the AZ but setup behind the gate to be safe. Phil ran up HF and it was quite. 2M as also quite with Glenn deploying the beam again. Then the other sites came up and it was on for all. Four S2S on unique sites and HF payed off as chased by regulars VK5PAS,ZL1BYZ,VK5IS & VK4TJ. Day coming to an end and we still had work to do.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-022 (Mt Pendergast)
We had had a big day with but Mt Pendergast was too good to drive past. The intent was for a quick activation as we had two hours drove to get back to Hotham for the evenings activities. Its is a clear but steep drive up to the comms site. By this part of the day the boys had had enough of me and kicked me out on the road out of the AZ and so were able to gaining contacts as soon as they got to the summit. I also need the walk to stretch my back and get the step count up. Glenn got his beam out and by the time I got there they were chasing the boys on VK3/VG-014. Qualified and started the trip back.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VE-006 (Mt Hotham)
VK1DA’s 4 element 23cm beam. Photo David VK3IL
M\BY the time we got there then summit was rocking. Ron had HF up, Wade was playing with FT8, Andrew had setup a 23cm station (1296.150 SSB) so I jumped at the opportunity to secure microwave S2S with Andrew VK3JBL on VK3/VN-001Mt Torbreck and Crompton VK2HRX on VK3/VE-030.
Rik came in from the wild and after snacks and a bear that turned up from nowhere , we headed back down to The General for dinner.
Again once back at the lodge we discussed the next day and out came the radios for show and tell. Plans were made, timings confirmed and off to bed for another big day.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VE-005 (Mt Loch)
Its was a busy site. I was the second for the day. Rick and Paul were up and gone early. I was the afternoon shift as thinking of being there for UTC rollover. Rick and Paul got out there and qualified in 1:18 (TBV) I was slighlty slower but not by much and didn’t have a snake to deal with. Its a great walk to a clear site with a perfect antenna mount.Great activation qualified before getting the pack off. Total of 24 contacts, 8 distinct S2S sites, 40/80M CW contacts and killer views.
The weather was amazing. Typical Alpine conditions, needed the jacket on the walk out, jumper on site and sunscreen on the way back.
Thanks again to thanks to Brian and Kathy for hosting another memorable weekend in the Victorian Alps. I will be back next year for what has to be the premier SOTA activation fest in VK.
3rd Annual Mt Hotham SOTA Summit
VK3/VE-006 Mt Hotham
VK3/VG-008 Mt Misery Range
VK3/VE-010 Davies Plain
This is the third year Brian VK3MCD has hosted the now annual VK Mt Hotham SOTA summit.
I’m keen on this weekend for several reasons. The first is you get to spend a weekend with like minded SOTA folk. Second is staying in Hotham during summer allows for clear access to remote mountains too far for a day trips from home. After three years we are starting to go further afield to activate new summits however have a broad pool of experience to draw from to select and gain access to summits. This event has become a highlight on the VK SOTA calendar and the increase in attendance and the enthusiasm expressed by the participates evidences how much we all enjoyed it
I took the opportunity to activate The Horn in WWFF Mount Buffalo National Park on Friday. I have never been to this site in good weather and wanted to enjoy the view as apposed to hiding from it.Previous attempts include a successful activation in July 2013 during snow and a failed attempt in July 2014. These conditions are a lot easier. Drove down to the end of Mt Buffalo Road and climbed the 800 odd meters to the summit. Took 7m squid pole as had planned to cast the long wire over the edge. Didn’t quite work that way so ran the wire from the fence line across the top. Took a lot of photos of the summits in the distance due to the excellent conditions. Also took advantage of the signage there taking references photos to align the pictures later.
Worked VK3YY Glen & VK3IL David returning from their Razor-Viking Wilderness adventure as well as Ron VK3AFW mobile. After qualifying the summit and taking enough photos I decided not to activate the other summits in the park but to head up to Hotham so as not to have a late night. Meet up with VK3HN Paul on the way up. I stopped to take photos and he picked the car with antenna was heading the same way. This was good as whilst I had the details of accommodation (This year we were based at the Anton Huette ski lodge) will admit apart from charging batteries the week before, booking and paying the deposit I did not spend a lot of time preparing so was not exactly sure where it was. One of the advantages is the ability to book leave early.
Friday night consisted of fine tuning plans and catching up with friends that whilst I talk to most weekends, only meet annually at such events.
My agenda was to prioritise the activation of new summits to gain completes. Peter has acquired a nice Ford Ranger 4WD and was happy to get out into the tracks so we teamed up.
The first group consisting of VK3PF,VK3HN,VK3ARH and VK3YY were up and headed off to activate VK3/VT-023 (VK3/VT-023),VK3/VE-032 (Mt Sarah), VK3/VE-049 (Mt Selwyn), VK3/VE-066 (VK3/VE-066) and VK3/VE-025 (Mt Murray). The plan was to drive down to Mt Sarah however changed on route as we laised with the other groups and confirmed times. In the end is was a case of driving past Mt Sarah to start from VK3/VT-023.
So off we went, back down to the intersection of Dargo High Plains Road and then onto Twins Road. This track is generally rough and narrow. We drove past the The Twins and VK3/VE-023 then around the side of VK3/VE-064 via Twins Jeep Track finally onto Selwyn Creek Road. from there is was sourh down Selwyn Logging Road turning into Tea Tree Range Road to arrive at VK3/VT-023 in time for S2S fun.
There were other explorers out in the bush so when we arrived on site there were still parking and antenna placement considerations. You can’t setup the dipole across the road. You can’t park on the road.
Peters new 4WD addressed the terrian with full comfort.
VK3YY Glenn & VK3PF Peter working ZL on VK3/VE-049 Mt Selwyn from Glenn’s cute antenna whilst I was still getting the dipole up. The antenna is directly connected th the KX2 with a counterpoise and operated ‘Walki Talkie’ style.
The car left on the track whilst we climbed up to the activation zone. One stayed behind out of the zone and we used 2M to activate. After q quick operator shuffle, we had all qualifed the summit and were back in the car to continue on to Mt Murray.
VK3YY Glenn, VK3PF Peter and VK3HN Paul on Mt Murray. My squid pole behind for HF. Great views to the south across the Wongungurra River valley.
VK3/VE-006 Mt Hotham
One feature of the Annual Hotham SOTA Summit is that Brian organises vehicle access to Hotham, making it a breeze to activate and socialise. However drinks was not my priority, I set up the HF with KX3 and linked dipole and started calling, VK3HN Paul setup his linked dipole and Summit Prowler-IV looking for 80m contacts whilst Glenn started calling on the KX2 with whip.
Warren VK3BYD/p was still on Mt Stanley with 23 cm so Andrew and Compton deployed 23cm gear. Using the handheld and 4-element Yagi resulted in very good signals both ways allowing Warren to log 8 S2S Hotham to Stanley contacts on 23 cm FM!
We eventually packed up and headed down to The General Store for dinner before a early night as adventures to be had on Sunday.
Day Two – 04022018
On Sunday VK3PF, VK2HRX, VK3HN and myself travelled in a convoy to activate three 10-point summits to the east of Mt Hotham. First was Mt Misery Range (VK3/VG-008) where we secured an unexpected S2S with Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VN-016 (Mt Alexander). On arriving at VK3/VG-008 – Mt Misery Range I pull out the GPS to discover the batteries are flat. Not an issue as have spares. However as there were four in the party and at least two other GPS devices, I decided to leave the GPS and use the Hike2 app on my Garmin vívoactive.
The device tracked and displayed our route with no issues. Given the short distances involved, it displayed on the small screen well enough to show and giving distances back to the start point. The map above downloaded from Strava shows us navigating (following brumby tracks) around the boggy area on the return trip. Whilst the screen is small and does not have a map, the track back was easy as showed distance and direction to start point. Ok this device is not a replacement for a GPS and map but did track and record the walk out and back and allowed me to be comfortable in the bush without a map and compass.
Once back at the cars we headed down Mt Misery Track then across to VK3/VG-009 in time for a S2S contact with Glenn VK3YY and Andrew VK3JBL on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 and Leigh VK3SG on Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015. Final summit was Davies Plain (VK3/VE-010). Davies Plain in Kosciuszko National Park is the furthest we got, just 10km from the NSW border, and only activated once before (by Compton in 2013). The 4WDs came into their own this deep into the bush. There is no way I would have gotten Subie this deep so appreciated the comfort that Peters 4WD provided.
It was 2+ hours of dirt road driving each way including some rugged 4wd tracks but a real experience. Here we are on Davies Plain 10k from NSW. I had to force the group to turn and head back so as to start my trip home that night and suspect had I not they would still be out there chasing summits on 4WD tracks.
In memory of Subies passed, this year Ron VK3AFW hosted the ‘Bust a Gasket Award.
Thanks to Brian VK3MCD for offering, arranging and hosting the 3rd Annual Mt Hotham SOTA weekend, thanks also to all the participants – the camaraderie was terrific and it was great to have like-minded company to discuss a variety of topics and finally thanks to the chasers who patiently waited for us to arrive and then who tolerated us activators passing the microphones around to ensure all qualified the summits. An event like this only works because of the efforts of ALL who participate activator and chaser alike.